True Soul Vol. 1 & 2: Various Artists
These albums are a truly head-spinning collection of classic, regional, true soul, and funk, with a little bit of 80’s synth bringing up the caboose. Really, it’s the story of a label told after its prime. The re-release (or first release for some songs) of these True Soul tracks is the culmination of a decade-spanning relationship between one of the major pillars of the Stone’s Throw family, Egon, currently head of the Now-Again label, and the complex, astounding, and true-to-life head of the now defunct True Soul Records, Mr. Lee Anthony.
Located inLittle RockArkansas, from the mid sixties to the early eighties, True Soul Records was a beacon of the funk and soul scene. As the first Black-owned record store in the city, it was one part emporium, one part recording study, and a major hub of musical talent.
The pair of compilations is an amazing artifact in its own right and only whets the appetite for further examination, though True Soul’s music only really exists on vinyl these days. Both tell the history of theArkansaslabel’s owner and acts that made it big, even if only in their local area.
Indeed, one can certainly appreciate that at that time and era, soul and funk music dominated the charts by the inclusion of local television soul review shows featuring the True Soul musicians.
The first volume clocks in at just under an hour and is a wonderful tribute to the acts that put True Soul on the map in the sixties and seventies. Once the first track, Thomas East’s “Slipping Around,” the album softly begins to infiltrate that place within one that produces groove. Littered with solid offerings such as Ren Smith’s “Smog,” John Craig’s “Doing My Own Thing,” and The Right Track’s smoldering “I Gotta Move With the Groove,” the album also displays the talents of stone cold masters.
York Wilborn’s Psychedelic Six tracks and the talented Thomas Smith’s work tie the whole compilation together and drive home what progressive, innovative, and truly talented artists True Soul had in their stable. From these successes, the label only attracted future hit makers.
Enter volume two, with its continuation of the good times and shepherding of the listener forward in True Soul’s timeline, introducing such hot acts as The Conspiracy, showcasing the aching sounds of The Right Track on “You for Me and Me for You” and pumping out the indomitable track “(It’s A) Rat Race” by The Leaders, probably one of the funkiest tracks I’ve ever heard; even when compared to the national greats.
What truly makes these albums special is the feeling of region; all of these acts were from theLittle Rockarea and were reacting to a new genre of music sweeping the nation. That as they interpreted this wave of far-out artistry, they brought their own soul to the work they did and made the genre their own. It was a special time when local entrepreneurs could become local hit makers.
In the end, extensive liner notes, an introduction (or at least deepening of knowledge) like no other of a vintage label, two hours of classic, straight-from-the-heart funk and soul, as well as the great video content make this double set a must-have for those interested in the time the place that spawned such memorable aural experiences.
True Soul lives on and it’s a true testament to Now-Again’s chops that this music saw the light of day once more.